The first wave of baby boomers reached retirement age in 2011. AARP magazine reports that since the onset of their “coming of age” for the next 18 years, 8,000 boomers will turn 65 each day. Financial concerns will take center stage in the retirement planning process. But aside from finances, are they really prepared for this new phase? Many will say yes! But boomers, known as the “me” generation, have notoriously done things their own way and in their own time. “I never want to retire” my friend Paula, a 68-year-old school administrator announced over a cup of coffee. “My colleague is still working at 85, why not me?” When retirement talk came up with Gail, a 59-year-old social worker with more than 23 years tenure, her response was unwavering, “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!!” Roland, who was laid off from a management position in the technology industry, continues to seek work each day even though at 65 he has the means to retire. “I’d rather wear out than rust out,” he says.
Do you have a pre-conceived notion of retirement? Beverly, a newly retired medical technician says, “I like to view my retirement as a transition rather than a loss.” Perception is in fact reality. Some workers identify with their jobs so completely that when work ends they feel lost. Multiple facets make up the whole of who we are and we have value far beyond our professional lives. I like to think of retirement as a second act, one that can be every bit as rewarding and interesting as the first. A time to nurture key relationships and explore possibilities never before considered.
Many prospective retirees imagine they will be happier once released from the daily grind. Melissa Knoll, a research analyst with the office of retirement and disability policy, Social Security Administration says, “A necessary prerequisite of the retirement decision, is the accurate prediction of one’s future emotions. Unfortunately, previous research has demonstrated that individuals do not make accurate affective forecasts.” This underscores the fact that the retirement decision is complex and requires a great deal of contemplation. The average life expectancy for a 62-year old retiree is approximately 22 years, a significant life chapter. Delayed retirement is monetarily beneficial in most cases but, even so, it’s not necessarily the right choice. Your current health status is often a deciding factor as well as future health concerns and the health of your loved ones. Knoll reports that individuals in lower socioeconomic groups tend to retire earlier than those in higher brackets. This is mainly due to added stress caused by a lack of control over their work environments with a higher proportion of workers in physically demanding jobs.
Most workers will tell you they work to earn a paycheck but there are other motivating factors. Social interaction is one of them. My father-in-law who retired at age 83 stayed on the job for this reason. “I love talking to people,” he would say. He took clients out to lunch and enjoyed his job to the last day. We are social creatures. Our co-workers become an extended family and even occasional conflicts with them provide a reason to get “all fired up.” Understand the need to maintain social networks in retirement. It may be as simple as meeting friends for coffee on occasion or as bold as opening your own coffee shop. Seek out activities that keep you connected.
Phasing out of work is becoming popular among the boomers. Workers slowly exit the workforce by working part-time for a year or two before taking their final bow. According to HR firm Hewett Associates, only 5 percent of employers offer this program; however, over the next several years more plan to get on board, perhaps as many as 60 percent.
Lastly, it’s imperative to maintain your passion and keep your mind sharp. There are many ways to do this. Some retirees donate time in support of humanitarian organizations; others travel. Retirees often take up hobbies they’ve put on the back burner for years. Diana, a former co-worker and animal advocate, launched a dog-sitting service when she retired. My Subaru dealer told me he plans to flip houses. Learn a new language; embrace lifelong learning and take classes at the college or design your own phase-out program and consult. Whatever you choose, do it enthusiastically and with joy each day.
— Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional who has worked in the employment field for more than 20 years. She is a trainer coach and job developer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.